Sunday, June 21, 2009

Film Truth and Dziga Vertov ' s " Man With a Movie Camera "

Primarily in the 1920's, filmmakers such as Dziga Vertov experimented with a theory called kino pravda, or "film truth." Perhaps even more of a montage than what was produced by Pudovkin and discussed by Eisenstein, kino pravda set out to capture fragments of reality and combine them to reveal a deeper truth, one not readily visible to the naked eye. This truth would be one accessible only through the eye of the camera.
Vertov called fiction film a new "opiate for the masses" and belonged to a movement known as kiniks (or kinokis) who hoped to abolish non-documentary film-making. His "Man With a Movie Camera" was Vertov's response to critics who rejected his earlier "One-Sixth Part of the World." Because of its experimental nature, Vertov worried this later film would be ignored or destroyed, hence the film's opening statement:
"The film Man with a Movie Camera represents
Of visual phenomena
(a film without intertitles)
(a film without script)
(a film without actors, without sets, etc.)
This new experimentation work by Kino-Eye is directed towards the creation of an authentically international absolute language of cinema – ABSOLUTE KINOGRAPHY – on the basis of its complete separation from the language of theatre and literature."

Despite Vertov's claims that filming could capture reality without intruding, cameras of the day were large, loud, and could not be hidden easily. To be truly hidden, Vertov and his brother Mikhail Kaufman attempted to distract their subjects with something else, something louder than the camera. So even if the camera itself was not imposing itself on the scene, the necessary distraction would alter the "truth" to some extent. Therefore, "film truth" could not technically be a reality during Vertov's time as a filmmaker.
Much like Vertov's earlier "Kino-Pravda" series, 23 short documentaries created over a period of three years, "Man With a Movie Camera" contains a propagandist element. Vertov wished to create a futuristic city following the Marxist ideal, an industrialized city built on the back of workers and their hard labor. Much of the film's style seems to borrow from the earlier "Berlin: Symphony of a Great City" by Walter Ruttman. However, these stylistic choices do seem to create a symbolic language which is generally effective.
While "Man With a Movie Camera" may not fully realize the goal it sought to portray, a "truth in film," it may have inadvertently produced a true statement of the era which produced it. The film contains an optimism, idealism and naivety representative of its place in history.

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